How to care for an indoor Wandering Jew plant – Tradescantia

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She is so pretty.
My pink Wandering Jew plant.

Officially she is called a variegated pink Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Tricolor’. I think she is the most beautiful of all the different types of Wandering Jew plants.

Non-variegated Wandering Jew plants have solid green leaves. Another common variegation has green leaves with purple stripes, the so-called Tradescantia Zebrina, and then there is the pink variegated Wandering Jew.

You can’t go wrong. All the Wandering Jew variations are lovely and very fast growing. If you can keep your plant happy, it will bloom with small pink or purple flowers which last just one day.

Tradescantia plants look gorgeous in hanging baskets or set on a shelf or plant stand where they can cascade down in all their glory.

How did the Wandering Jew Plant get its name?

Let’s start with the question everyone asks. What’s up with that name? Why is this plant commonly called a Wandering Jew? Well, there are a few different stories that go around.

It is said by some that the Tradescantia got its common name Wandering Jew, because of the wandering way it grows. It spreads quickly, with sections of stem all growing in slightly varying directions, wandering about.

Others say it was because propagated cuttings of the plant were passed on to friends and family like wanderers traveling the world.

But this just explains the Wandering part. The Tradescantia could have just been called the Wandering Plant. Why the Jew part?

The explanation most often heard is an old Christian myth about a Jew who had a very offensive attitude right before the Crucifixion, mocking Jesus. It is said that Jesus responded by condemning him to wander the earth until the second coming.

Basic Wandering Jew Plant Care

Now on to the important part of how to best care for your indoor Wandering Jew plant. First of all, I would not say this is a starter plant, nor a plant for those who like to put a plant on a shelf and sort of forget about it. This plant needs a little TLC.

And while we’re at it, let me admit this, the first Wandering Jew plant I ever owned, died on me so fast, I couldn’t even start to really appreciate it. I didn’t know a lot about basic plant care back then, so I had it in too dark of a location and really killed it off by overwatering the poor thing. It had no change.

The most important things to consider when growing a wandering jew indoors are proper watering and humidity, and adequate light.

How much light does a Wandering Jew plant need?

Wandering Jew plants do best in bright, but indirect sunlight. You want to provide your plant with enough light to keep their color and flower. But be careful with too much direct light. Their delicate leaves burn easily in too much sun.

The ideal location is an east or west facing window. This gives your Wandering Jew enough light in the morning or late afternoon/evening, and plenty of bright indirect light the rest of the day.

If you notice your plant needs more light than you can provide, a grow light can do wonders.

How to Water a Wandering Jew Plant

Wandering jews don’t like their soil to be completely dry for too long. So remind yourself to water regularly. Try to keep the soil evenly moist. They can be finicky. They also don’t like to be sitting in soaking wet soil for too long.

Make sure the pot has drainage holes and water thoroughly when the top of the soil is dry. Read up on How to Water Houseplants for a quick refresher on how and when to water.

Try to water directly onto the soil, don’t just dump all the water right on top of the plant. Wandering Jew plants don’t do well with a soaking wet crown. If you want to be extra careful, you can choose to water your Wandering Jew from the bottom rather than the top.

Bottom watering is as easy as filling a tray or cache pot with water and let the plant soak it up through the drainage holes on the bottom of its pot.

Wandering Jew plants love Humidity

Humidity. Humidity. Humidity.

If you want to keep your Wandering Jew plant happy, you need to make sure it gets its dose of humidity. The leaves will turn brown, shrivel up and die if the humidity is too low.

Making sure the humidity is high enough is especially important during the winter months when the air indoors tends to be even dryer. There are a few things you can do to keep your plants happy and healthy during the winter.

The easiest way to up the humidity around your Wandering Jew is to run a humidifier next to your plant.

Another thing you can do is to put your plant on a humidity tray. Really not that complicated. Just put the plant on a pebble tray filled with water. This way the water will vaporize right around your plant where you want it. The only thing to watch out for is to not allow the plant to actually sit in the water.

How to Prune a Wandering Jew Plant

When your plant starts to wander, it quickly can get leggy and grow long tendrils all over the place. Pruning your Wandering Jew plant should be part of your regular houseplant care schedule.

Pruning doesn’t just remove the long stems, it will also make your plant grow more compact and bushier. When you prune and pinch off stem tips, the plant will grow two new shoots right from the pinched off part. Leaving you with a much fuller plant.

While you’re at it, pinch off any possibly thin, weak growth and remove dead leaves.

How to Care for a Variegated Wandering Jew

Variegated Wandering Jew plants like the Tradescantia Zebrina and Tradescantia Tricolor can lose their variegation and turn a solid green for a number of reasons.

With Wandering Jew plants this often happens when the plant grows in too little light. But it can also happen when it is too hot or too cold for the plant to grow its variegated leaves.

When the plant does not have the right conditions, it will revert to growing solid green leaves because it is trying to save its energy. Growing those beautiful variegated patterns costs a lot of energy it just doesn’t have.

When you see the leaves of your variegated Wandering Jew turning a solid green, get pruning!

Remove all those leaves that are turning solid green. Those new solid leaves grow faster than the variegated ones, so if you would not prune them, they will take over your entire plant.

When all those solid green leaves are pruned, move your Wandering Jew to a spot where it gets more light.

How to Propagate a Wandering Jew Plant

Wandering Jew plants are one of the easiest plants to propagate. So if you have a few stems after a pruning session, or if you want to make a new plant to share with friends or family, go for it!

They root easily in water or moist soil. Take stem cuttings of a few inches long with a couple of leaf nodes. Remove the bottom leaves.

To water root, place your cuttings into a small vessel of water. They will send out roots fairly quickly. Keep the water clean and wait for the roots to grow a few inches. By then you can transfer the cuttings to a small pot with soil.

You can skip the water rooting and go straight to planting the cuttings into soil. Dip the cuttings into rooting hormone and place them into moist soil.

Common Wandering Jew Plant Questions and Problems

Why are the leaves of the Wandering Jew dull and faded?

One day you notice your Wandering Jew plant looking dull and faded. How did that happen? Usually it has to do with the light your plant is getting. Maybe it is getting too much light, but most likely it is getting not enough light.

The lovely foliage will fade when it is not receiving enough light. So move your plant to a spot where it gets some more natural light.

Leggy growth on a Wandering Jew Plant

Long leggy stem parts ruin the look of your otherwise full and lush Wandering Jew plant. The easy fix is to pinch off the leggy growth. But that only solves it in the short term.

You need to figure out what causes the weak growth in the first place. This often happens during the winter months. It usually is a sign that your plant isn’t getting enough humidity, and or light. Darker days and central heating make it hard for your plant to thrive. Move your plant to a spot where it can get more light, and mist or put it on a pebble tray to up the humidity.

Read up on more tips on how to get your plants through the cold winter months.

Why is the variegation disappearing from the leaves?

This is very sad. You found a Wandering Jew with gorgeous variegated leaves, brought it home, and now the leaves are reverting to mostly green.

Your variegated Wandering Jew plant needs lots of bright light. If not, it can loose that lovely variegation. Prune the affected leaves and move your plant to a spot with more light.

Is a Wandering Jew Plant Toxic to Pets?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Wandering Jew plants are mildly toxic. If your pet eats from the plant, it may in rare cases cause minor skin irritations.

Read more about toxic houseplants and pets. Something important to keep in mind: there are way more reported cases of pets getting sick from prescription and over the counter medications, chocolate, cleaning products, and insecticides, then from them eating houseplant leaves.

Still, be aware of which of your houseplants might cause problems and stay safe.

Where to buy Wandering Jew Plants?

The easiest way it to get cuttings from someone you know who already has a thriving Wandering Jew plant.

If that is not an option, check out your local plant nursery or garden center. There you can often find nice sized Wandering Jew plants for sale in the hanging plant section.

Otherwise, there are some great online plant sellers on Amazon and on Etsy that sell a variety of Wandering Jew plants.

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4 Comments

  1. I have a Wandering Christian plant. The history of the name comes from Jews being kicked out of Spain by the Christians during the Spanish Inquition; when they were murdered and kicked out of Russia during the programs; when they were rounded up and gassed and burned in ovens, all by the Christians! I really love my Wandering Christian plant!

  2. Hello Deborah,

    Love your article. It took me a while to find an informative one on Tradescantia fluminensis Tricolor. I recently got one from a friend of mine. It’s bushy and long, but only the top has some pink variegation but maybe 5-10% of the whole plant. After reading your article, I suspect that she didn’t leave it in enough light, and didn’t prune away the green non-variegated leaves. I am just wondering, if I start pruning away the green non-variegated leaves, can I nurse this plant back to its pink variegated state? My bright urban apartment is south-west facing with large glass windows. It can get lots of bright indirect sun away from the windows. Please advise.

    1. Hi Lindsay,
      You are saying all the right things. I would definitely give it more light. And you can prune away the green leaves.
      But that will be most of your plant.
      You could also try to propagate it by division. Take your root ball and carefully separate the part that still has the pink variegation.
      This will leave you with a small pink Tradescantia, and you have the rest of the plant still intact to grow and keep as a green Tradescantia.
      Good luck!

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